Wouldn’t it be horrible if consciousness was nothing more than a thin layer of narrative over a series of involuntary reactions? If the self was just a spectator, scrambling to account for some meaningless reality?
It’s a farfetched idea till you think about optical illusions. Your brain, see, it doesn’t just show you what’s there. It does its own interpretation. It edits out extraneous information, fills in what it thinks is missing, and before you know it, you’re seeing motion in stillness, colour in greyscale, all manner of visual static. Even knowing it’s there, you can’t turn it off.
What if it’s not just our vision? What if it’s everything, our whole selves, and we can’t turn any of it off?
Y’know, I was thinking of this time, I’d’ve been about ten. My friend Heather was over. We were playing King’s Quest IV. We’d been playing all night, and we were right at the part where you escape Lolotte’s castle, inching down the cliffside to the woods. Now, any ’80s gamer will remember those cliffs. Every game had one, about six pixels wide, and if you zigged or you zagged at just the wrong moment, you’d plummet to your death.
Anyway, Heather was playing and I was leaning over her shoulder, and, I don’t know. I panicked. She hadn’t saved in a while, so I pushed in and saved for her, and right then, she fell off the path. We loaded our game, but I’d saved after she fell. I’d saved us into death. We’d lost our night’s play, and all because I couldn’t keep my hands off the keyboard.
So I was thinking, what if it’s all like that? Like, if we could hit F7 on our lives and go back to a previous state, only we were always saved into death? If we could fuck the same fuckups for the rest of eternity, and not change a thing?
It would be jarring, wouldn’t it, watching yourself act, powerless to stop it? It’d upset the whole narrative, knowing you never had a choice. You’d try to make sense of it, tell yourself you could’ve chosen once, but the past, man, it must be set in stone. Your present, your future, of course you get to choose. Of course you do. You chose to go back, didn’t you? You chose the pear you had for breakfast. Tomorrow, you’ll have an apple. It must be the past. You can’t undo the past. The universe’s paradox protection, that’s all it is. Tomorrow’s still yours.
What if it’s all just a fireworks show, a distraction from the slow oxidation of our bodies? I suppose it’d be a kindness, then. A gentle analgesic. Hopes, dreams, morphine, what’s the difference?
I love playing “wouldn’t it be horrible.”
Who wants to play with me?